A few years ago, in March of 2019 to be exact, it seemed nearly every big name in fashion was partying it up in Qatar: DVF, Naomi Campbell, Victoria Beckham — by all accounts, it was the place to be for industry heavyweights. The reason? Fashion Trust Arabia, a non-profit that launched the year prior, was hosting their inaugural awards gala, which gave financial prizes to emerging and established designers in the MENA region.

The splashy event drew everyone from supermodels to creative directors, giving the region's local talent international exposure to the world's biggest creatives. And while the pandemic forced the event to go digital in 2020 and postpone its usual in-person March slot in 2021, the gala made its triumphant return last November in Qatar's National Museum.

The ceremony was presented by model Irina Shayk and Al Jazeera TV presenter Fairouz Ziane. Guests were welcomed by FTA Founder Tania Fares alongside Her Excellency Sheikha Al Mayassa bint Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Chairperson of Qatar Museums and Co-Chair of Fashion Trust Arabia, under the Patronage of Her Highness Sheikha Mossa Bint Nasser.

It was the culmination of a week-long series of fashion activations in Doha, including Dior's "Designer of Dreams" (on view until March 2022) exhibition, Valentino's installation of couture abayas and Virgil Abloh's "Figures of Speech" exhibit (also on view until March).

The morning before the awards gala, the designer finalists presented their collections to the FTA Jury, a group of key industry heavyweights that include Carine Roitfeld, Mugler's Casey Cadwallader, Haider Ackermann, photographer Juergen Teller, Valentino's Pierpaolo Picciol and supermodel Natalia Vodianova.

As each winner took the stage to accept the award in front of royalty and the world's biggest names in fashion, you could hear the excitement from not only the recipients but their teams and fellow finalists. There was a strong sense of community and support in the room indicative of the overall MENA region.

Zaid Affas (ready-to-wear), Alia Bin Omair (jewelry), Port Tanger by Bilal Fellah (accessories), Benchellal by Mohamed Benchellal (eveningwear), El Tayeb Nation by Abdelgarder El Tayeb (Franca Sozzani Debut Talent Award) and A New Cross by Agustin Nicolas Rivero (Guest Country Award - Colombia) will all receive up to $200,000, mentorship from FTA partners and a partnership with retailer MATCHESFASHION, which will be stocking all FTA 2021 winners on its website.

One of the highlights of the evening included Abloh (in what would be one of his last public apperances) presenting the Entrepreneur of the Year award to his friend and shoe designer Amina Muaddi. Fares told WWD that the whole point of having a live event is to connect people. "We want the designers to have as much exposure as possible to the industry. They get so much out of it,” she said.

Indeed, while the gala marks the grand prize, the organization's efforts expand year-round. FTA launched FTA Pulse and a fashion database Directory, resources that assist in shining a spotlight on the Arab fashion world through features, interviews and company information.

Photos courtesy of Fashion Trust Arabia

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